Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club, Kirknewton, Edinburgh
Sometimes the best things in life are closer than you think. Of course, having lived in Edinburgh for 20 years I was aware of Dalmahoy’s existence, but like most, I had it down as being exceptionally, utterly, frightfully, next-level-altogether, posh and simply “not for the likes of us oiks”.
So it was a little surreal to find myself walking towards the hotel reception desk to check in with my family less than 20 minutes after setting off from the centre of town.
It would be fanciful to think that the red carpet, bagpiper and white-tailed and gloved Master of Ceremonies were laid on for us rather than the blushing bride directly behind us, but that’s what we told the kids all the same. I’m not sure they bought it.
And so, after a genuinely warm check-in, and armed with instructions on how to find our room that would have bamboozled a seasoned Cherokee ranger, we set off through the labyrinthine interior of the hotel.
But then half the charm of beautiful baronial piles like the Dalmahoy is rooting around them, trying to locate hidden tunnels (yes they have one apparently, and it is said to reach all the way to Edinburgh Castle).
Budget or boutique
The core of the house might date from the time of the Old Pretender, but over the last two and a half years, more than £2m has been invested in refurbishing the four star hotel.
The seven manor house rooms and suites were recently refurbished in a project overseen by Glasgow-based Liz McNeill of 10 Design. We were booked into one of the refurbished junior turret suites on one of the corners of the modern portion of the hotel.
Its king-sized bed alone was big enough for the four of us, and probably granny and grandpa too. The sturdy fold-out sofa-bed for the kids would have been completely surplus to requirements were it not for my snoring. Also available is in-room camping for children where they sleep in tents as part of their stay.
Worth getting out of bed for
After a few “oohs” and “ahhs” and some hurried WhatsApp “look at this place!” crowing to their mates, our two kids led the way to the hotel’s leisure centre with my wife while I visited the gym.
Compact, but with a good number of modern machines and weights, the facilities stand up well to any contender in the city. The 18-metre pool came with both sauna and steam rooms for relaxation.
I am not a golfer, so the jewel of Dalmahoy’s many treasures, its two award-winning 18-hole courses, may be lost on me, but I know value when I see it and the £88 a month fee for access to one of the courses, plus all the facilities in the leisure club, looked a pretty good deal.
Wining and dining
Specialising in Scottish fare with a twist, the Pentland serves up a perfect blend of traditional and modern with starters such as Light Asian-style broth, sweet vegetables, and confit chicken dumplings happily rubbing shoulders with country house favourites like ribeye steak with Béarnaise. They’re all served in the grand setting of a proper, old-school Scottish country dining room.
We took the edge off with a couple of bottles of splendid wine topped off with a healthy measure of calvados as we worked our way around a cheeseboard like famished oversized mice.
The breakfast before the off was perhaps the highlight of the trip – who knew there were so many different ways to serve eggs? And free refills to the point of popping.
A free shuttle bus service for guests runs to and from Edinburgh Park Station and guests can then catch a train to Edinburgh or Glasgow or, hop on a tram into Edinburgh city centre or to the Airport.
Guest book comments
With rooms to be had for less than £90 via well-known websites, Dalmahoy is probably cheaper than you thought, certainly friendlier, and undoubtedly closer.
Current offers at Dalmahoy: Rooms from £69 a night on Sundays, from £79 a night Mondays to Thursdays, from £99 Fridays and Saturdays.
Winter sale available to book until 30 November. Winter Breaks Offer valid on stays until 31 December. Based on two adults sharing a Classic Double Room. Evening meal supplement £25 per person.
Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club, Kirknewton, Edinburgh EH27 8EB (0131 333 1845, www.dalmahoy hotelandcountryclub.co.uk)